SNAP Restaurant Meals Program: What Is It and How Can Seniors Sign Up?

Packed roast chicken place on the shelf waiting to sale in the market deli section.
Fang Zheng / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Seniors and other Americans who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can also enroll in a special state-run program that lets you buy food at SNAP-authorized restaurants.

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Under the SNAP Restaurant Meal Program, elderly, homeless and disabled SNAP recipients can purchase food at SNAP authorized restaurants using their SNAP EBT cards, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. Participating restaurants must offer meals at discount prices. In some cases, the program lets recipients buy food in the deli sections of participating grocery stores.

The idea is to help SNAP recipients get hot prepared foods at restaurants — something many are unable to do at grocery stores.

“We just sort of ignore the fact that there are populations that don’t have the means to prepare or store food and that literally the most poor and the most disabled among us are completely left out of our nationwide hunger assistance program,” Mohammed Aly, the executive director of the Orange County Poverty Alleviation Coalition, told USA Today.

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Six states have opted into the SNAP Restaurant Meal Program. It is widely available in Arizona and California, while four other states — Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia — offer the program in select cities or counties. In addition, New York recently passed a law that lets state social services agencies apply to the federal program. Illinois passed the same legislation two years ago but hasn’t started a program yet.

States that want to participate must prove to the USDA that certain high-needs residents aren’t well-served by traditional food stamp benefits, according to the Sun. It is then made available to residents over 60 years old, people with disabilities, people who are homeless, and their spouses. McDonald’s and Subway are among the restaurants that participate in the program in select states.

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Eligibility requirements might vary by state. For example, the Arizona Department of Economic Security said the program is available to any Nutrition Assistance household in the state if every person in the household meets one or more of the following conditions:

  • Has a disability 
  • Is 60 years of age or older
  • Is homeless and does not have a fixed or regular nighttime residence
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To sign up, contact the appropriate agency in your state. To find eligible SNAP retailers in your area, use the USDA’s SNAP Retailer Locator.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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